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Oct 19, 2011 12:58 PM

Special occasion tasting menu

Hello! My mother's 60th birthday is approaching and I would like to treat her to a fabulous meal. She has never done a tasting menu and very much wants to, so this seems like the perfect excuse. I am looking for a place that will go the extra mile and make this a very special evening. While I hesitate to say price is no object, I'm definitely willing to spend if it will be worth it. My mother loves seafood, is not a big fan of Italian food, and is open to eating just about anything. I would like a place that serves dishes we can discuss at length and marvel at. Above all, I want this to be a dining experience unlike any she's ever had. I am considering EMP and Le Bernadin, but I'm definitely open to other suggestions. Thanks!

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  1. I think you have hit squarely on your two of your three best options, with Per Se being the third. All three are likely to lead to a "fabulous meal" that your mother (who is very lucky to have such a generous kid) is sure to enjoy. As between the two you listed, LB is more formal and seafood only, while EMP is a bit more familiar in its approach and has a broader menu focus. Both are wonderful.

    Per Se
    10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

    1. Eleven Madison Park provides perhaps the warmest service, especially to civilians (ie hoi polloi like myself). I've never ordered a proper finny fish course there, however; I've only had their lobster and the various seafood amuses. A dinner companion told me her crab there was one of the best things she'd ever eaten.

      Le Bernardin, of course, specialises in fish.

      Per Se's food is superb, but I'm not a fan of their modern decor, though the windows do give a grand view of Central Park and Columbus Circle.

      There are lots of pics and blog reviews of all three restaurants: they may give you a better idea whether your mother would enjoy the food and atmosphere.

      Per Se
      10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

      Eleven Madison Park
      11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

      Le Bernardin
      155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

      1. Based upon food - As others have mentioned Le B is fish focused (to the extreme) and you couldn't do better (IMO) if you wanted to go with just fish even though they do offer meat courses it isn't their true forte so if you want a wider range of foods that will be offered I have to give the edge to EMP.

        Based upon it being a special occasion - EMP all the way.

        Per Se was not included in my reasoning although it would be an excellent choice based upon food and service but I felt it may not be the best place to introduce someone to tasting menus
        while celebrating a significant event (again, IMO).

        Edit to add: The fish dishes I've had at EMP, most recently the Loup de Mar, have always been wonderful.

        Per Se
        10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

        1. Le Bernardin is great and one of my favorite restaurants in NYC, but if you're not that concerned with formal dining, you might also look into Brooklyn Fare which offers an extended seafood tasting menu (25-30 courses) with maybe one meat course.

          The restaurant isn't for everyone, but if you're looking for "a place that serves dishes [that you] can discuss at length and marvel at" you'll be able to do just that with the chef Cesar Ramirez. He welcomes questions about the food and makes it a point to converse with each diner. If you show up early you could even get seated at the end of the counter where you'll have free access to him.

          Just be aware that he won't allow any note taking, photos, or texting, but otherwise I found Brooklyn Fare to be an enjoyable and memorable experience and routinely recommend it to serious seafood lovers.

          For what it's worth, Brooklyn Fare just earned three Michelin stars.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Riverman500

            Sitting at a communal bar (Brooklyn Fare) doesn't seem to be the best introduction to tasting menus for a 60th birthday. It isn't nearly intimate enough there.

            1. re: nmprisons

              Like I said, Brooklyn Fare isn't for everyone, but I just thought I'd suggest it so that the OP make an informed decision about extended seafood tasting menu options, especially from a chef at a Michelin 3 star who's enthusiastic about discussing his food with his patrons.

          2. Thanks for the input everyone! Brooklyn Fare definitely interests me a lot, but it may not be quite the atmosphere I want. By the way, does anyone know the approximate cost of a tasting menu there? Anyway, I am thinking EMP seems just right-now I have to figure out how to land a reservation there!

            8 Replies
            1. re: bigfish813

              If you can't get a reservation at EMP or Per Se, I highly recommend Bouley for your Mother's birthday celebration. I just took my sister to Bouley for her birthday celebration, and we had a marvelous time!

              Per Se
              10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

              163 Duane St, New York, NY 10013

              1. re: bigfish813

                Do you want to go on the actual birthday or are you flexible? Would you consider a lunch (often easier to get reservations for lunch)? And remember to call EMP directly, don't just relie on online rez.

                1. re: Spiritchaser

                  I am not looking to go on the actual birthday...I'm actually very flexible on the date but Open Table had me thinking it was totally booked for the next month. I will call though-perhaps that is the secret! And thanks so much everyone for the excellent advice!

                  1. re: bigfish813

                    The lines open at 9am, and you can book 28 days in advance.

                    However, my experience with Danny Meyer restaurants is that the OpenTable page for them is accurate. I don't believe they hold back tables from OT that you can only get by calling; however by calling, you can get on the waitlist for a particular night.

                    In particular, at Gramercy Tavern, they actually told me that OpenTable was going to be better/easier if I was booking right at 9am.

                    Also the upcoming EMP cookbook and recent Michelin upgrade may mean it's just going to be harder to book than it used to be.

                    ETA: at 9:03am I was able to get a 9pm table for two just now for Friday 11/18.

                    1. re: kathryn

                      Thanks for the thorough reply! I actually just tried Open Table again and happened into a Monday reservation a few weeks from now. Very much looking forward to it!

                2. re: bigfish813

                  I believe that the current price for the tasting menu at Brooklyn Fare is $185/per person, plus an additional 20% service charge.

                  Have a great time wherever you decide to go.

                  1. re: Riverman500

                    Good to know! I will keep Brooklyn Fare in mind for a future special occasion.

                    1. re: bigfish813

                      You want a tasting menu that'll blow her mind? Tocqueville, on 15th Street.

                      1 East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003